A Life of Discovery: Michael Faraday, Giant of the Scientific Revolution

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Random House, 2002 - Biography & Autobiography - 465 pages
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In a world of darkness perched on the edge of discovery, Michael Faraday lit up the world of science, contributed to the Industrial Revolution, and changed the lives of everyone on Earth. Now a superb new biography illuminates the life of this amazing, reclusive, deeply contradictory man.
Born in 1791, Faraday was the son of a blacksmith with a thin education, yet he was gifted with a rare intelligence and intuition. He was a devout member of a small Christian sect that believed in the Bible's literal word, yet he was open to all that humankind could invent from earthly knowledge. He was ambitious and savvy about spreading news of his work, yet he patented nothing and received no personal gain. In short, Faraday personified all the paradoxes of the early nineteenth century, a landscape in which class, faith, and desire clashed.
As apprentice to the esteemed Humphrey Davy of the Royal Institution, he helped discover the miner's safety lamp, which revolutionized the search for and accumulation of coal, then went on to make a landmark study of induction, the connection between electricity and magnetism, and the idea of the electromagnetic field. From electric motors to precision-made eyeglass lenses to steel razors to liquid chlorine, his inventions-often designed with self-created instruments-have become staples of civilized society, the "roots of modern life."
While rising in society, Faraday steered clear of politics and the seamy machinations of the material world, staying obedient to a higher authority. Though disdainful of "useless passion" and devoted to his wife, he found a confidante in the bright, liberated, and flirtatious daughter of Lord Byron. Trying to reconcilehis severe religion and his demanding work, he eventually suffered a mental collapse.
An acclaimed biographer of artists, James Hamilton now captures the entire fascinating story of this individual and his era. "A Life of Discovery "is the definitive account of a remarkable man who merged intuition and logic, prayer and deduction.

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A life of discovery: Michael Faraday, giant of the scientific revolution

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British physicist and chemist Michael Faraday (1791-1867) earned a place in the pantheon of scientists with his discoveries, public lectures, and promotion of scientific training for all. In this new ... Read full review

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About the author (2002)

JAMES HAMILTON is University Curator at the University of Birmingham, U.K., and Honorary Research Fellow at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham. He was Alistair Horne Fellow at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford, 1998—1999, and is the author of Turner: A Life. He lives near Oxford, England.

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